Ten years. One decade. Really? I can’t believe it myself. December 1, 2019 marked my tenth year at paultan.org, and while it feels just like yesterday that my office was a middle room in a rented SS4 house (Driven Communications has 50 employees now), much has changed at the same time.

Hairstyles, personal cars and colleagues aside, I’ve also seen our auto industry change over the past decade (damn do I sound like an old fogey). Not just the usual evolution either; we might be on the cusp of cars – as we know and love – changing for good.

The term ‘once in a generation’ does not even begin to describe the shift to electric and autonomous vehicles. If things go as predicted, the former will send the internal combustion engine to the grave, while the latter will kill off the very act of driving a car.

The kids of your kids might ask – you mean you guys had to drive them cars last time? Did you also live on trees? Seems like a joke, but if you’re into cars, it’s a sad thought.

The shift seems irreversible, so the only question is when? No one truly knows, so enjoy this outdated idea of the automobile while it lasts. This is the final call, so if you like it, go for it or forever hold your peace.

PS: Ranking the cars in this list was a frustrating cycle of arranging and rearranging – they’re clearly very different and each impressed yours truly in a unique way. But majority wins and for the sake of uniformity, here are the apples, oranges and bananas in rough order. Sounds like a cop out disclaimer, but tried I did!

10. Toyota C-HR

My top car of 2018 raised some eyebrows because its high points are obscured by the relatively high price and mediocre spec. If those are the reasons why the C-HR is overlooked by most crossover consumers, I fully understand. Toyota’s case isn’t helped by the Honda HR-V, which is a fine car and logical option.

But if you look past Malaysia-specific issues, it’s amazing that the C-HR even exists. Toyota – not a byword for adventure – could have made this mainstream SUV more spacious, could have made the visibility better, could have watered down the wild design. But no, they went all out with the Coupe High Rider.

The result is a concept car that you can buy, just like the Lexus LC. All this would have meant less if it was a dull drive, but the C-HR is an enthusiastic B-road partner, and even the CVT isn’t a dampener. The smooth drivetrain and good ride comfort seals off a great package for those with no family considerations.

9. Perodua Myvi

When you’ve dominated the market for over a decade, it would be understandable if complacency crept in. The third-gen Myvi’s 2017 debut dispelled any such notion about Perodua. Also, with a single stroke, the company banished the perception that it skimps on safety and features.

Things like LED headlamps and keyless entry – which aren’t a given on some cars costing multiple times more – were standard on the RM44k base variant. The Advance, at just RM11k more, pushed out the boat by introducing driver assist systems unprecedented in a sub-RM100k car. P2’s ASA suite has since been upgraded and made available in the Axia, its entry model.

We also gave bonus points for indigenous features such as air con memory and a built-in Touch n Go reader. It’s almost like a footnote that the car beneath all the kit is better in NVH, road manners and efficiency.

The Myvi lifted the base standard of motoring in Malaysia, and others will have to level up.

8. Honda CR-Z M/T Facelift

There’s only one car here that I can experience its goodness everyday, and it’s the Honda CR-Z. Twice it appeared in my annual Top Five list and I bought one in 2013. It’s far from the fastest car around, and it’s not exactly dripping with driver appeal, but the little coupe has been a near perfect daily for six years now (its birthday was yesterday).

There aren’t many manual cars on sale in Malaysia that’s not a full blown performance model (Type R, Renault Sport, Hyundai N, can’t afford) or a basic Perodua. The CR-Z was such a unicorn, and it came with Honda’s brilliant stick shift, a factory warranty and good FC (full urban gets me over 14 km/l).

Best of all, I like the fact that it feels like a normal car (quiet and comfy enough) with an extra helping of engagement. Bonus: that wedge of a shape is also very unique in the same-same world of car design.

7. Audi A5 Coupe Mk2

It was a toss between my favourite interior and my favourite exterior, and the Audi A5 prevailed over the Mk3 Audi TT’s wonderfully minimalist cabin, but just.

You see, I’m a coupe/convertible kind of guy, and aesthetics carry more weight for yours truly. I like how hot hatches drive, and there are some fearsome super sedans around, but they’re just, you know, not so cool.

Go on and hate me, but pumped up versions of boring everyday cars stand no chance against sleek two-door shapes designed to be sexy, made for the carefree.

And the Audi A5 is surely one of the most beautiful modern coupe designs. The original is over 10 years old now, but my radar never fails to lock on to its perfect proportions and gently flowing lines. It’s not as pure, but today’s Mk2 retains much of what’s good, and gives the A5 a cabin to match its elegant skin.

6. Toyota 86 M/T

It’s now the go-to car for those looking for a relatively affordable and modern RWD coupe, but when the Toyota 86 surfaced back in 2012, it was a breath of fresh air.

Context matters. ‘Sport’ wasn’t in the Japanese carmaker lexicon then, and there weren’t many cars from the Land of the Rising Sun with driver appeal. And then Toyota – that safe and boring money making machine – shocked the world with the reborn hachiroku.

From the basics like driving position, to the extremes such as throttle adjustability at the limit, it’s obvious that the 86 was made by people who love to drive. Here’s hoping that its success serves as a reminder to carmakers that one can make a business case for sports cars as well.

5. Mazda MX-5 ND

If cars that require an engine and human steering are really going the way of the dodo, the Mazda MX-5 would be a good memento to purchase and preserve.

With size and weight that’s close to the 90s original, the MX-5 experience is as pure as it can be in 2020. Some might say ‘Lotus’ but those go-karts are expensive and not daily friendly. The world’s best selling roadster stands alone.

No trick suspension and big power needed, because it’s so light. No gadgets needed, because you get to pop open the roof and enjoy an extra element. No Bose and leather needed, just a base 1.5L manual in grey for me.

When the next decade comes around, this experience would be priceless.

4. Bentley Flying Spur Mk3

I was tipsy from a cocktail made of one part skeptical, one part apprehensive. The task of the day was to drive the new Bentley Flying Spur from Monte Carlo’s Casino Square to the mountains overlooking the French Riviera and back.

Getting out of the steep strip of land that’s Monaco is tricky in a Golf (ever heard of underground roundabouts with five exits?), never mind a 5.3m Bentley. Away from the A8 autoroute, Cote d’Azur mountain roads are narrow and often blind cornered. And I wasn’t supposed to just putter along.

That’s because Crewe describes its latest Spur as sports sedan meets luxury limo, an all-new car that owes only its name to the previous version. Is there such a thing as a car to do it all though?

If that mythical creature exists, it might be wearing a retractable Flying B mascot. Let’s just say that I drove it like I would a hot Golf, and the Spur’s agility felt both amazing and natural at the same time. Also astounding is the sheer performance on tap – W12, 635 PS, 900 Nm, 333 km/h, 0-100 in 3.8s.

For me, the rotating centre console is not just cool, it summarises this car – tech and tradition, it has both.

3. G30 BMW 5 Series

Can one hanker for manual sports cars and plush executive saloons at the same time? The latter developed into a full blown fever in 2015, no thanks to the Audi A4. The quietly brilliant B9 would have been here if not for BMW releasing what could possibly be the best car in the world.

What? So, how would you then define the best car in the world? Is it a car that offers the ultimate in tech, the best drive, or simply one that’s most comfortable? Or how about one that does all of the above rather well, at a price point that’s not the preserve of millionaires?

To me, the latest 5er is a great all-round player in a game that’s all about compromises. A formal-looking business exec with a sporty edge, it’s supremely soothing and effortless in the daily grind (NVH and comfort much improved from the previous gen), yet always obliging when you’re in the mood. If this car was human, he’d be the Business Athlete I aspire to be.

2. Porsche 718 Boxster S

What would you buy if you struck the lottery, I often get asked. The answer is always the Porsche Boxster, and I’ve never wavered.

Just a Boxster? You see, while I like nice things, I also hate drawing attention, excess and ostentatious display. Modern supercars are exactly those things, perfect for full bore acceleration to the next speed bump 100m ahead. With sports exhaust on, of course. Not judging, just saying.

The Boxster is nice enough (it’s a Porsche!), and now that it has this wonderful thing called turbo torque, it’s fast enough for 99% of the time as well. Before you ask, I’ve never been a 911 fanboy, and why Cayman when you can roadster?

Yes, the character and noise of the old flat-six is missed, but we’ve got to accept reality. Forceful pick-up aside, the S’ 2.5L turbo flat-four revs till 7,500 rpm and sounds rather angry doing its thing. Still the dream.

1. FK8 Honda Civic Type R

This car is the power of dreams personified. Honda’s dream was to tame the Nurburgring and beat the Europeans at their own game, a game called hot hatch. The result was the latest Civic Type R, which broke the ‘Ring’s FWD record and went on sale in 2017.

What I expected was the improved tractability from the FK8’s turbo engine, the tenacious front end grip, and of course – Honda’s best in the world manual shift. What I did not anticipate was the arrow-straight stability under braking. What shocked me was the CTR’s ride comfort on 20-inch wheels – it was unbelievably friendly.

It looks bonkers with all those aero bits, but this is a track hero that you can daily easily. Nurburgring boleh, Middle Ring Road 2 pun boleh!

PS: Special mention goes to the civilian Civic FC sedan, which was a true game changer when it debuted in 2016. This generation will one day be remembered fondly alongside radical predecessors such as the EG and FD.